A quick scan of the Amazon best sellers book list shows that two out of the top five most popular books are colouring in books for grown-ups. According to Bookscan, 560,000 adult colouring books have already been sold in Australia this year, and Hachette Australia plans to sell another half a million by the end of the year.
Whether a fond childhood memory or something you do with the kids in your family, colouring in has taken a mature turn. Now associated with buzzwords like ‘mindfulness’ and ‘art-therapy’, colouring in has been likened to meditation.
Mental health and communications expert, Mark Robert Waldman explains that active meditation (such as colouring) focuses attention on simple tasks that require repetitive motion. Concentrating this way replaces negative thoughts and creates a state of peace, and many people who have a difficult time with concentrative meditation can find this easier.
Mark’s comments definitely rang true with me. Earlier this year I signed myself up to a six week meditation course at the Sydney Meditation Centre, where I learnt about the benefits of meditation and the various techniques you can practice to restore some calm in your life. While I had no trouble taking myself to a meditative state during the classes, I struggled to achieve a similar state un-guided when at home. Keen to see what all the fuss was about, I bought myself The Mindfulness Colouring In book from the book store on Crown Street in Surry Hills and some ridiculously over-priced colouring in pencils, and gave it a whirl. 90 minutes later and much to the bemusement of my partner, I was care-freely engrossed in my colouring in, creatively weighing up whether the next flower was going to be mauve or magenta.
One of the most popular claims is that colouring promotes “mindfulness”, an age old principle found across eastern philosophical practices, including Buddhism. Fundamentally, mindfulness is about living in the present and being aware of oneself. Rather than blocking out negative and stressful thoughts, like the majority of us do, being mindful gets you to purposely focus your attention on the positives in the moment, the surrounds and how your body feels. This in turn allows your mind to calm itself to a rational place to deal with situations with a renewed sense of calm.
Secondly, Joel Moore, author of the popular Mulga’s Magical Colouring Book, believes that the adult colouring movement stems from busy people who want a change of pace: “These days, we are so hectic and busy and spend way too much time on screen, so I think people love getting back to basics and properly chilling with a soothing session of colouring. The fact that it’s a thing that was enjoyed as a youngster is probably comforting in some kind of way as well,” he says.
So aside from the meditative state of mind colouring in conjures, perhaps the appeal also lies in the fact that it reminds us nostalgically of our childhood; simpler times when the sum of our responsibilities was staying between the lines and not eating the crayon.
The power of nostalgia isn’t a new concept in the world of advertising and publicity. Whilst scientific findings on nostalgia are far from conclusive, studies suggest it can result in improved moods, increase connectedness and can provide existential meaning. For marketers, provoking some sort of positive response with the audience is one of the main communication objectives of a brand.
A number of brands have harnessed this powerful emotion to their advantage. Pepsi’s recent collaboration with global mega-star Beyonce saw Queen Bey transported back through her back-catalogue of hits, ending with the punch line “Embrace you past… but live for now”.
With the prevalence of social media in our lives these days, our feeds are often an assortment of past and present. One of Twitter’s most used hashtags is #TBT (Throwback Thursday), which sees users posting their old pictures (or in Kim Kardashian’s case, pictures from last Tuesday). The mainstream success of the Instagram and other picture editing sites which allows users to layer images with a variety of frames and filters sees plenty of nods to yesteryears – from sepia tones, retro fonts and Polaroid boarders.
So whether you’re in need of a little relaxation or some inspiration: “Colour whatever you like and while there’s usefulness in discipline in life, don’t live your whole life between the lines.” Concludes Dr Linnell.
Written by Jai Dattani – Senior Publicist, Pulse Communications